Pride can be defined as a pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s achievements. Gay Pride has become a term and movement used to celebrate the identity, individualism, and culture of the members of the LGBTQI+ community since the late ’60s. This movement is now widely recognized during the month of June each year as a way to commemorate historical events such as the Stonewall Riots, which initiated social and political change in support of this community. In recent years, a focus has been shifted to better understand and support efforts to address mental health issues and bring awareness to groups of people disproportionately affected by them. Each June, as we celebrate Gay Pride and become better allies, we can also learn to normalize conversations about mental health and bring greater awareness to the needs of those identifying as a part of the LGBTQI+ community.
Recent studies have shown that individuals who identify as LGBTQI+ or transgender have a higher likelihood of suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicidality. Additionally, there may be greater barriers to accessing adequate healthcare to address these challenges. As allies or those who associate as a part of this group, we can educate ourselves on the best ways to support and recognize mental health issues and increase our awareness of resources we can share with our loved ones.
Common risk factors that can impact the mental health of LGBTQI+ and transgender individuals may sound similar to the risk factors that face cisgender populations such as substance abuse and trauma. We should also consider the challenges unique to this population, such as coming out to family and friends, possible rejection or harassment, being targeted for violence, homelessness, inadequate health care resources, and the threat of losing rights through policy changes. While these examples may sound extreme, they are real concerns faced by many and often contribute to persistent stress and/or symptoms of mental health that may be underlying.
If someone is looking for support and treatment for mental health issues or is struggling with the risk factors identified above, there are great resources available to specifically address these issues and competent medical providers who are experienced and knowledgeable in this area. This includes mental health providers who identify as LGBTQI+ affirming, with additional certifications, knowledge, or experience, who may be able to provide referrals for group support and community resources. Seeking treatment for mental health issues is a great way to become more aware of the risk factors impacting one’s day-to-day life, and identify protective factors to lean on and utilize in times of crisis or ongoing stress.
Pride month should be a time to decrease isolation while furthering the connections and sense of community, which for many, can be both powerful and validating. It celebrates this population’s rich culture and history and acknowledges the diversity and inclusivity of those with shared experiences. We can all be a part of this celebration and support the mental health and well-being of those we love through awareness and advocacy.
8 South Jersey and Philadelphia Resources You Should Know:
- PFLAG Collingswood – The first and largest organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies.
- Garden State Equality – The largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in New Jersey.
- HiTOPS – Group support for adolescent and young adult members of the LGBTQ community.
- Jersey Gay Pride – Non-profit organization designed to provide fundraising, community-building events, and training in South Jersey.
- Mazzoni Center – Organization dedicated to meeting the health and wellness needs of the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia.
- Penn Medicine LGBTQ Health Program – Medical professionals and specialists who provide quality and culturally competent care in a judgment-free setting.
- Kaleidoscope (Center for Family Services) – Provides youth-centric programming for support and guidance.
- SERV (Center for Family Services) – Offers support to victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and human trafficking who identify as LGBTQI.
Other great ways to step up and support friends and family members are being open-minded and listening when needed, using preferred pronouns and refrain from making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and confront your own biases that may be present even when it’s difficult. Lastly, speaking up against prejudice and discrimination and creating inclusive spaces for LGBTQ members can be a great way to show up for your friends and family and show your support for their wellbeing!